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American Literature: Harlem by Langston Hughes

This poem illustrates the occurrence of a dream. It is not just the ordinary dream that occurs when one is sleeping but rather a practical dream or a life goal. This dream seems to be of much importance to the dreamer. The dreamer does not really tell us what exactly is his dream and therefore the question, ‘’ what happens to a dream deferred?’’, seems to get its response and answers with more questions and no outright answer.

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Reading through the poem, ‘The Harlem’ brings out the perspective of the writer regarding Harlem and the lives of the ordinary, urban, Black Americans and tries to emphasize their plight. The writer, Hughes, seems to be protesting against some social vice. Hughes tends to express his frustration and disappointment.

The writer uses sensory images i.e. taste, touch and smell. He uses illustrations of food, fester, sugar and the sun. The language of the writer is soft, down to earth and frank. It is evident that his language does not euphemize (Perry et al, 35-46).

The examples the writer uses show how he feels about the whole issue. He talks of a raisin being left in the sun which illustrates that if it happened, then the raisin would dry up and would be hard to eat. He is trying to ask the question of whether our dreams should be left to die and become useless.

Through life’s journey, every person has his or her individual expectations. We all have dreams that we strive to achieve. We work towards self-actualisation. Therefore, we can derive from this poem that every person’s life is like a dream (Powell et al, 38-47).

Our individual dreams at times may be viewed as collective dreams and thus involve many people along their actualisation. In Harlem’s, ‘’A dreams deferred’’, Langston uses symbolism to show his illustrations and the actual message. He also uses strong imagery and a powerful sensory device to express his emotions.

Hughes asks his question in the quest to address the problem of inequality among the citizens. He wants to express the feeling of the minority and the less fortunate. Things have changed drastically over time and there seems to be more change from the time Hughes writes the poem. However, there still remain some bits of this vice and some people are yet to experience the feeling of equality in the country (Hughes, 58-70).

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In the current American dream, huge corporations make huge profits while they evade taxes. At times, the corporations go ahead and get tax returns. Some leading banks also get a tax payer funded bailout making record profits and also sometimes get tax refunds.

On the other hand, some politicians want to cut programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that have been a major contribution towards the realisation of better, richer, and fuller lives for a huge population. These politicians continue to oppose these noble courses that are vital to the achievement of the American dream. The poor people are the same that vote solemnly for these politicians who later go to seek their selfish interests in those offices.

Hughes uses a very powerful symbol when he asks, ‘or does it explode’, this illustrates a very powerful image. This therefore illustrates that even in our day today lives, dreams deferred will certainly die out without accomplishment making our lives unfulfilled.

Works Cited

Hughes, Langston. The Big Sea. New York: Knopf, 1940.Print.

Perry et al. Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.Print

Powell et al. Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, May 4). American Literature: Harlem by Langston Hughes. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/american-literature-harlem-by-langston-hughes/

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StudyCorgi. (2020, May 4). American Literature: Harlem by Langston Hughes. https://studycorgi.com/american-literature-harlem-by-langston-hughes/

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1. StudyCorgi. "American Literature: Harlem by Langston Hughes." May 4, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/american-literature-harlem-by-langston-hughes/.


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StudyCorgi. 2020. "American Literature: Harlem by Langston Hughes." May 4, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/american-literature-harlem-by-langston-hughes/.

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StudyCorgi. (2020) 'American Literature: Harlem by Langston Hughes'. 4 May.

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